Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Information Fluency

Yesterday I mentioned the concept of "Information Fluency". Neologisms should be used with care - why invent a new word when an existing one will do? But sometimes it can be useful to indicate a change in thinking. Information Literacy has been around for some time but it can be used in a very limited sense with an emphasis on IT skills. Information Fluency (IF) extends the remit of this term. For students it means being conscious of the research process and applying critical thinking to each step. It means a lot more than typing a few words into Google!

Much of the work on Information Literacy and Information Fluency has been done in an academic setting but it is important in the outside world as well. I suspect that when students take up jobs in the real world they breath a sigh of relief that they no longer have to bother with proper citations and the other information literacy stuff - they can just find the information they need when they need it - but this can create problems. The first point in the SCONUL Seven Pillars model of information literacy is the ability to recognise and articulate a need for information. One of the criticisms made of Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, over his handling of the war in Lebanon was that he "made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one. Also, his decision was made without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel". I am sure that many bad decisions in business are a result of a similar failing to recognise the need for information.

The third stage is the ability to construct a strategy for locating information while the fourth is the ability to locate and access information. Again, how many information workers in business skip three and go straight to four - and probably don't do that very well?

If using a new term helps us to get this concept over then it will be worthwhile.

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